The Special Olympics Torch has become one of the most colorful aspects of Special Olympics New Jersey Opening Ceremonies. There is little in the Summer Games that compares to the anticipation that fills the stadium as spectators and athletes await the appearance of the Torch to officially open the Games.

Evolution of the Torch Run:

Twenty-three years ago, the late Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Officer Steven Vitale was asked to take photos at a local Special Olympics competition in New Jersey. He was so moved by the determination exhibited by the athletes that he asked other police officers to volunteer at the Summer Games. Over the years the number of Law Enforcement volunteers has increased to such an extent that today, New Jersey Law Enforcement officers are committed to Special Olympics on a year-round basis. As Law Enforcement participation grew, the decision was made to become a premier sponsor in fundraising. In 1984, the first New Jersey Torch Run was conceived to raise funds and public awareness for the Special Olympics program. The course ran from Liberty State Park in Jersey City to Rutgers Stadium in New Brunswick.

How it works:

Law Enforcement officers run one to four mile legs of a relay that traverses their state or nation, carrying the lighted Special Olympics Torch to the Opening Ceremonies of their Special Olympics Summer Games. Participating officers and agencies raise funds through corporate sponsorships, the Adopt-A-Cop program, and many other fundraisers. In 2005, the Special Olympics Torch was carried by more than 90,000 Law Enforcement officers through 30,000 communities worldwide.

The public awareness generated by the Torch Run is just as important as the money it raises. A grassroots event involving well-known public figures, the Torch Run creates deserved recognition for individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Across the United States, Law Enforcement officers carry the Special Olympics Torch on relays that take them through blizzards in Alaska, the Florida everglades, the endless farmland of Illinois and the Arizona desert with their eyes set on the goal of the Special Olympics Summer Games caldron ahead. Special Olympics athletes, many of who compete in mainstream long-distance races and marathons, run alongside the officers. Communities along the Torch Run route often organize parades and other special events to mark the Torch’s arrival.

Contact Information:

If you are interested in finding out more about the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics, please contact the Rahway Police Department or the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics at:

3 Princess Road, Lawrenceville, NJ 08648
Phone: (609) 896-8000
Fax: (609) 896-8040